Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Edward Bredell, Class Of 1859

I got a copy of Jeffry Wert's Mosby Rangers in the mail this week.  Although I've read bits and pieces of the book before, I wanted to take a closer look at the battle in which Edward Bredell was killed, as it never seemed too clear as to what happened.  Wert's book is an excellent history of John Mosby's guerrilla unit and does have a great account of the battle, which I'll pass along shortly.  But, while looking for more information about Bredell's military record, I made a rather important discovery:  Edward Bredell attended Brown University.

Bredell, according to various sources, was a member of Browns' class of 1859 and was certainly at the university during the 1855-56 term.  According to A Catalogue of the Officers and Students of Brown University, 1855-1856, Bredell was a first-year student, staying at University Hall and studying science.  His course load included classes in mathematics (geometry and algebra), chemistry, physiology and a foreign language (either French or German).  The 1857-58 catalogue does not list Bredell as a student at Brown and the Historical Catalogue of Brown University (1914) lists him as someone who attended the university but did not graduate.  It's unclear if Bredell was still at Brown in 1856-57 but, if he returned for a second year, he would have taken classes in natural philosophy, rhetoric, history, intellectual philosophy with a choice of electives among civil engineering, practical chemistry, and geology.

This is extremely significant for a couple of reasons.  First, Bredell was studying science and this was a course of study that would have a practical application in his life.  In May 1859, Bredell was named the business manager of the Missouri Glass Company, a company co-owned by his father.  If you look at the operations of the company, it's obvious that a great deal of practical scientific and engineering knowledge was necessary to run a company like that.  Bredell gained that knowledge at Brown University.  Also, Merritt Griswold, who also worked at the Missouri Glass Company, was an engineer and it appears that the two men shared a love of science, as well as a love of baseball.  We know how the two men, being co-workers, met and, with their shared science background, we can begin to imagine how they may have formed a friendship that had a significant impact on the history of St. Louis baseball.

More importantly, to that history and friendship, it's likely that Bredell had been exposed to the New York game while at Brown, which is located in Providence, Rhode Island.  Brown University played a significant role in the history of collegiate athletics and, specifically, in the history of collegiate baseball.  Providence, itself, had a history of ball-playing that dated back, at least, to the 1820s, a baseball club was formed there in 1857 and Brown had baseball clubs by the early 1860s.  I have little doubt that baseball was being played in Providence and at Brown when Bredell was there and, given his baseball activities in St. Louis a few years later, it's likely that he first played the game while a university student.  At the very least, Bredell most likely saw the New York game being played while a student in Providence.

This information completely changes the story of how the Cyclone Club was formed in the summer of 1859.  Previously, it always appeared that Griswold instigated the formation of the club.  We knew that he had played the game in Brooklyn and there are several sources that state that he formed the club.  Based on the information that we had, it was obvious that Griswold introduced the New York game to St. Louis and was behind the formation of the first club.  We also know that Bredell played a role in the formation of the Cyclones and he has been credited as the club's co-founder but I always assumed that it was Griswold who was behind everything and he had just talked his friend into starting the club with him.  However, with the information that he had either seen or played the New York game while a student at Brown, Edward Bredell assumes a much more prominent role in this story.

In the April 21, 1895 issue of the St. Louis Republic, Leonard Matthews and Ferdinand Garesche, two members of the Cyclones, gave a brief history of the club.  The writer of the article (most likely E.H. Tobias) stated that "In the summer of 1859 a meeting was held in the office of the old Missouri Glass Company, on Fifth street between Pine and Olive.  M.W. Griswold, a clerk in the company's store, who had lately moved to St. Louis from Brooklyn, N.Y., an enthusiast on baseball, aided by the exertions of Ed Bredele, had gathered together the nucleus of a club..."  Reading this again, it sounds like Griswold and Bredell were working together to put together a baseball club and that makes sense.  If Bredell had played baseball at Brown and gained an appreciation of the game, it must have been a wonderful thing for him to meet Griswold and learn of his love of the game.  There couldn't have been many people in St. Louis, if any, with a practical knowledge of the New York game and here were two of them working together at the Missouri Glass Company.  I can imagine the two men forming a friendship over this rare, mutual interest and deciding, together, to form a baseball club.  The Cyclone Club was formed out of the friendship of Griswold and Bredell and their mutual love of the New York game.

Also, I think we have to be open to the idea that it was Bredell, rather than Griswold, who introduced the New York game to St. Louis.  We assumed that it was Griswold based largely on his letter to Al Spink and on our knowledge of his background.  But, if Bredell had seen or played the game while at Brown, he would have brought his knowledge of the New York game to St. Louis several years before Griswold arrived in the city.  However, the extent of Bredell's ball-playing activities at Brown and in St. Louis prior to forming the Cyclones is unknown so I think the most we can state is that it is very likely that there were people in St. Louis, specifically Edward Bredell, that had a knowledge of the New York game prior to Merritt Griswold's arrival.  Putting it another way, it no longer appears that Griswold's knowledge of the rules of the New York game and his experience playing the game was unique in St. Louis in 1859.                      

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